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Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit assess notional casualties during the final evaluation of a Combat Lifesaver Course aboard USS Bonhomme Richard Nov. 21. Eight Marines with the unit successfully completed the four-day course.

Photo by Sgt. Scott Biscuiti

Deployed Marines learn life saving skills at sea

21 Nov 2009 | Sgt. Scott Biscuiti

Eight Marines currently deployed with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed a four-day Combat Lifesaver Course aboard USS Bonhomme Richard Nov. 21.

During the course the Marines learned basic ways to assess and treat casualties of combat trauma including hemorrhage control, shock treatment and airway assessment.

“The course gives the students a better understanding on how we do our job so they can assist us,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jay Elder, a CLS instructor and hospital corpsman with scout sniper platoon, Battalion Landing Team 2/4, 11th MEU.

With a Marine to corpsman ratio of 13 to 1, it is likely that a Marine will be the first responder to a casualty. 

“If we can stabilize a patient before the corpsman comes, that increases the chance of the casualty surviving,” said Cpl. Clint Swartz, a Spring, Texas, native, who passed the course. “Understanding how to assess a patient is what’s going to save them.”

After three-days of classroom instruction and practical application, corpsmen from BLT 2/4, the MEU’s ground combat element, and the command element, evaluated the Marine’s life saving skills in a pass or fail event.

It was the final test.

Marines with notional wounds served as injured role players. The Marines had to properly assess the injuries and tell the corpsmen what steps they took and why.

Heavy metal music, simulated wounds and yells from the instructors created a chaotic environment for the Marines to work in.

“It’s to disorient them, to trip them up,” said Elder, a Marlboro, Mass., native. “We can’t simulate combat, but we can stress them out.”

The music blared through speakers a few feet from the Marines heads as they tried to remember what they learned. The role players screamed and flailed, fighting the would-be rescuers.

“They did everything they could to make it stressful,” Swartz said.

The evaluators listened and observed as the students yelled over the music the steps they took. Once the corpsmen were satisfied with the answers, the test ended and the students rested.

“If I see a patient like that it would be a shock, but I have a better understanding of what to do to save his life,” said Swartz. “This is by far the best medical course I’ve taken.”

Corpsmen aboard the amphibious assault ship have taught three CLS courses and plan to continue teaching until the end of the deployment.

Elder and other corpsmen said they would like to see every Marine on board take the course because, “We know this will save lives.”


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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit